Friday, January 11, 2008

Small World

My parents aren't really baseball fans, except for by relation to me and my brothers. Still, having one casual fan and two stark-raving insane Yankee fans for offspring, they absorbed a lot of baseball by osmosis. The ballgames were always on the tube, or the radio. So when it comes to the national pastime, my parents know more than they think they know.

So it wasn't that weird when my dad brought up Bernie Williams last night, out of the blue. We were at dinner, and we'd been talking about my writing, and the whole Roger Clemens mess, and just at random Dad asks me about Bernie, as if he was one of my high school friends I still keep in touch with. So I filled my parents in as well as I could about the last year-plus: the un-vite (as Seinfeld would say) to Tampa for Spring Training, his kinda-sorta retirement, the speculation that he might be invited to camp with the Dodgers, his Jazz guitar work.

So that wasn't weird, but what happened today was. My parents were flying to Puerto Rico, and since they practically live on planes these days, they get upgraded to first class. Since these are the seats left over when first class isn't booked full, they often don't get to sit together, but you don't complain when you get bumped up. Anyway, my dad goes to take his seat, and who's he sitting next to? You guessed it, Bernie Williams.

Sometimes small doesn't even begin to describe the world.

****

Saw Michael Clayton last weekend, and it was phenomenal. It's a legal thriller that meanders a little bit on the way to where it's going, but the performances are so compelling you're unlikely to mind a few digressions. George Clooney plays the title character, a big-firm lawyer who doesn't fit the profile: he's a Fordham Law grad in a sea of Ivy League suits, a guy who's been with this giant legal machine for 15 years without making partner. He's the kind of guy who can't ever be a partner--you could say he's the lawyer in charge of non-legal solutions. When the law firm's top litigator goes crazy in a deposition, Clayton's the guy you send to smooth things over with the cops and the client. The litigator, Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) is off his meds and out of his mind, and his timing is lousy because the firm's representing a big corporate client in a billion-dollar class action suit.

How things play out with the suit is a bit predictable (what, you thought the big corporate client was going to be innocent?) but that's kind of beside the point. The point is how Wilkinson, clearly out of his mind, suddenly snaps back into clarity to explain why no one's going to successfully have him committed. It's how Tilda Swinton, as the big corporation's head lawyer, seems constantly on the edge of jumping out of her skin, even when she's in control of the situation. It's the honesty and seriousness with which Michael tells his son that he won't grow up to be a screwup like him.

Clooney's performance straddles the line between the deglamorized character he played in Syriana, and the typical, smooth, Clooney persona--streetsmart and cynical, but without the smug smile when he pulls one over on the powers-that-be. Wilkinson, a Brit whose American accent usually annoys and distracts me, is dead perfect in this role. The nasal drone of his accent works well with a character whose manic rants rarely give him a chance to breathe. If I were doing my Top Ten list now, Michael Clayton would make the top five--maybe the top three--and Wilkinson is neck-in-neck with Javier Bardem for the best supporting performance of the year. Very highly recommended.

1 comment:

Todd Drew said...

I like the story, but when are you going to fill us in on your dad’s conversation with Bernie?